You have probably heard about self-driving or autonomous vehicles more and more lately. With so much news coming out about autonomous vehicles, sorting what is true and what is false can be confusing.
First things first, no you still cannot plug in point A and point B and have your car drive you directly there; at least not anytime soon. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the best way to reduce car accident fatalities is still focusing on safety belt use and reducing drunk driving. Other measures to continue investing in is pushing carmakers to improve the crashworthiness of vehicles and bettering driver assistance systems.
Adrian Lund, IIHS president, says “The rhetoric has jumped ahead of the technology in many cases.” He says what people can and will be able to do now and in the near future is, “Activate adaptive cruise control to maintain a safe following distance and speed use lane-keeping assist to center my car and blind-spot assist to monitor adjacent travel lanes. These technologies improve my daily commute and add a layer of safety, but I am still the driver. I can’t fall asleep at the wheel.”
The IIHS are hoping these technologies will lower and by 2046, eliminate motor vehicle crashes. Estimated U.S. traffic deaths increased 10% to 17,775 in the first half of 2016 compared to the same time in 2015.
Right now, in order to have some clarity as to what exactly “self-driving” means, the NHTSA issued policy guidelines for self-driving vehicles. This included adopting SAE International’s definitions for levels of automation. This range starts a Level 0, no automation, to Level 5, fully automated. Right now Level 2 automation technology is available to consumers, therefore humans must still be fully aware when driving.
IIHS says the effect that autonomous driving technology has on the overall problem of crash deaths and injuries depends on factors including how much automation reduces crashes, where and when automation is used and the number of miles driven with autonomous technology.
They predict that when highly automated vehicles do come available they will operate mostly on interstates. As there are fewer challenges for the technology to deal with as opposed to stop and go traffic. The IIHS estimates that if no autonomous vehicles crash on interstate roads, there would be 17 % less crash deaths and 9% less injured. Again, only if cars with these systems did not crash would these estimates hold true.
There is much more information on the road to and the future of self-driving cars here.